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Hackernoon logoHow to Help Those Who Are NEET

How to Help Those Who Are NEET

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agile, change leadership, coaching, business

Most of us know volunteering is good for our health. You’re giving something back, meeting people you might not otherwise meet, and possibly transforming lives.

There are many things out there we can do, you may have things you are already doing or want to do — but this article is a small plug to champion one particular cause.

My network — particularly those who work in digital and tech — is typically advantaged, active in the UK economy and in our societies. Most of us are hopefully doing okay, and supporting each other to get better. Many of us mentor and coach in workplaces and organisations — looking after talented people, helping them become even better. But there is one section of society, a large one, that doesn’t have quite the same access to mentoring.

What does NEET mean?

NEET is a category for those who are, or at risk of becoming, Not in Employment, Education, or Training. There are those who are NEET, and those at risk of becoming NEET. It is young children at risk of exclusion from school. Young children self-withdrawing from school. Teenagers struggling to find their way. Young adults who have fallen out of the system. All of which have potential, if not self-belief.

The UK Office for National Statistics tells us the UK NEET rate has not improved over the past five years. In the midpoint of last year — before the Covid-19 pandemic — there were 792,000 young people in the UK aged 16 to 24 years who were NEET. Each of those 792,000 people is a life somewhere.

20-year-old, Caitlyn Morgan tells us it feels like everything is against her. Her work placement fell through after Covid struck and she struggles to find a job. Opportunities are becoming limited as organisations face uncertainty.

This is a “ticking time bomb” and will damage the prospects of a generation.

It’s not just the UK. The World Economic Forum tells us that even before the pandemic, young people were three times more likely to be unemployed, with one in five NEET. Those with jobs were likely to be employed in the gig economy — in 2016, three out of four young workers were in informal employment, without the protections enjoyed by older workers in more secure jobs. It is a fine line for them becoming NEET.

In McKinsey’s article on safeguarding Europe’s livelihood they write that young people in Europe are twice as likely to be in jobs at risk as older workers. The World Bank has warned this pandemic could cost this generation $10 trillion in lost income over their lifetimes without determined and coordinated action from governments. 

While significant it’s not only employment and income. Young people like everyone can suffer from confidence issues and issues in their relationships with friends and family. Those at risk of becoming NEET may not have the support around them to help them move on. They may struggle with their self confidence and their place in the world. The economy misses out too, as well as our society.

While I can’t fully relate or know what it’s like to be the people I meet, I grew up in a rough part of Manchester where unemployment was high, young male role models were typically on benefits, and the likelihood of doing well in education and employment was low. I was lucky to break out of that — lucky because I had the right guidance and mentors — and maybe a bit of serendipity. Young people may have the influences in their lives to help them break-through — or they might benefit from a friendly face who can mentor them onto higher things.

Action is being taken

Organisations like Impetus are making strides in attempting to more comprehensively understand the NEET population, predictors of being NEET and how it varies from region to region.

Camilla Cavendish of the Financial Times applauds the UK government promise of a “lifetime skills guarantee” offering free further education courses to adults without A levels of equivalents, as an antidote to how today, too many people who don’t go to university are left “without opportunity or hope”.

Local Government too are looking at strategies to ensure young people can realise their full potential and that the needs of employers are met.

All of this is encouraging — and a mentor from another walk of life could be well timed too.

What can we do?

Many of us have an advantage. The majority of my network are in business, technology and digital sectors, including a swathe that are bucking the coronavirus slump. UK tech startups are seeing funding nearing 2019 levels. In June data compiled for the Digital Economy Council show that UK tech startups raised $5.3bn in venture capital funding between January and May 2020. The amount raised in the same period in 2019 was $5.4bn — and that was a record year — suggesting this could be another strong year even with Covid-19.

Technology is driving the Nasdaq to all time highs. Here’s to a better 2021 after the year we’ve had.

Those of us involved in Digital are in an interesting movement going at pace. We are in an age where all aspects of work, life and society are being digitally transformed — the 4th Industrial Revolution. Even during the coronavirus pandemic and destabilisation of the global economy, Digital and Tech bucks the trend. There are people we need to not leave behind — ironically there is a skills shortage and you don’t need a degree these days to make computers do things. Could there be a win-win of supporting people who are NEET to get back in the economy, including meeting some of the digital skills gap? Whether it’s doing this or just helping them on the straight and narrow, and regaining their self belief, it’s worth a shot.


I was lucky enough to discover Starting Point in Reading, UK. They describe themselves as a project passionate in seeing transformation in the lives of young people who face disadvantage. Since they started in 2012 they have strived to meet the need of youngsters, particularly those hardest to reach. Starting Point in particular is broadening its scope, focusing as much on those at risk for various reasons as those who are NEET — it is good to intervene early. Children and young adults, aged 11–25, at risk of or involved in anti-social behaviour, criminal activity, exploitation, and youth violence. It is hard work, but important work.

The statistics are impressive. 101 young people mentored in 2019. 30% of young people accessed Employment in 2019. 25% of young people accessed Education in 2019. 38% of young people continued mentoring into 2020. 

Even more impressive than the stats though are the stories behind them.

“McDonald’s sent an email saying congratulations on the interview.” — Daniel
“If I didn’t have Starting Point I don’t think I would be in the job I am doing now.” — Chantelle
“When I found a mentor they helped me get off that path.” — Reece
“Having a mentor has helped instil that confidence in me that there are people out there that believe in me.” — Sam

The four videos that go with these quotes are 1 to 2 minutes each — you should watch them.

McDonald’s and The Oracle in Reading are two of the organisations that have supported, providing mentoring and work experience opportunities. Starting Point need individual volunteer mentors too — with wisdom and another perspective, to help those young kids and lost young adults.

If you live in the Reading area, have some time, and think this is something you could do, then check out Starting Point.

There are other organisations too. The TimeBank Looking Ahead Pilot in London. The Active8 Remote NEET Online Platform, and Action West London. The Really Neet Inspiring Change Programme. The ThinkForward Programme. There will be other organisations across the UK and elsewhere.

If you enjoy mentoring and coaching — then this is another demographic that could be hugely rewarding — or perhaps even consider recruitment and work placement opportunities in terms of diversity of minds and opportunities for young.

I am at the beginning of my mentoring journey with Starting Point, and already have learned more than I’ve given. There is untapped potential in people who are NEET. The mentoring challenges may be harder for someone facing expulsion versus a successful professional, but — that outside influence, of someone they might not normally meet — your wisdom, and encouragement, might just be the nudge they need to regain their self-belief and get active in the UK economy and society. This could be better for all of us — and potentially change someone’s life.

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